Cities, urbanity and urban cultures: An art and humanities perspective on urban studies

Urban culture is a central topic for a number of researchers at the Faculty of Humanities. It is the aim of Urban Culture Lab to bring together scholars of cities and urbanity, and to call attention to the Faculty's varied research and teaching within the realm of urban culture.

A societal challenge
The cities of the world are expanding rapidly and an increasing number of people throughout the world live in cities. For the first time ever, more than half of the Earth's population lives in a city, and there are over 20 cities world-wide with a population of more than 10 million people. We have entered “The Millennium of the City”.

The growth of urban populations has been accompanied by profound changes in the cities' economic, cultural, and social profile. The world economy is increasingly based in and on cities rather than nations, and branding of cities is central in governments' competition for businesses, tourists, and talent.

Worldwide, urban studies are increasingly prioritised in policy papers and research strategies. Urban studies are interdisciplinary in scope and approach the study of cities from a wide range of perspectives: environmental, social, economic, political as well as from a humanities perspective.

A humanistic approach
Within the humanities, studies of urban culture imply investigations of history, languages, cultural and social theory, cultural and civic institutions, media, art and culture. The city is central to the understanding of human life and the ways in which it is performed, represented and interpreted, and it is central to the ways we act and speak, in narratives, in media, and in art. Therefore, studies of urban culture are central to arts and humanities at large. Conversely, as the importance of cities increases on a global level, so does the importance of urban culture as a context for understanding and developing the arts and humanities.

Cities generate concrete situations, cultural environments and spaces for living, which are performed, perceived and mediated by human beings in their daily lives, in arts, media, and cultural institutions. Thus, urban culture involves a complex negotiation of contemporary or historical phenomena and perceptions. Arts and humanities offer ways of exploring urban culture and its dynamic articulation between lifeworlds and cultural artefacts. It is the ability to understand urbanity as a simultaneously spatio-temporal, experiential and perceived phenomenon that is special to the arts and humanities.

Urban Culture Lab
Urban Culture Lab was formed in spring 2014, and its main focus is to assemble researchers and call attention to existing research in urban culture, urbanity, and cities within the faculty. For example, this is done through a series of presentations, where the associated departments present their research in these fields.